What used to be LA Comikaze (until the name switch last year to Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic-Con) is growing and definitely suffering from growing pains again. The main stage featured some real stars on Saturday, the Black Eyed Peas and Dwayne ‘The Rock” Johnson, but this attracted rude men with cameras who crowded out families and people on mobility scooters and blocked the view for seated fans.

Can you see the ASL interpreter? Crowd of men with cameras stood in front of seated fans at main stage.

LACC’s main stage is still just one closed off section of the exhibition floor. It is not covered with carpet like the main entry way to the exhibition all. The audience size hasn’t reached the proportions of D23 Expo’s live-action movie presentation or SDCC’s H Hall where people camp out the night before. You can still walk in, but still there were crowd issues.

We went to the main stage in time for the “Quantum Leap” presentation which featured Scott Bakula and Don Bellisario. We both initially found seats–chairs were provided at each side of the audience area while the center was people standing. Aisles were loosely enforced between the standing area and the chairs, the chairs and the stage and the press/mobility scooter section and the chairs. According to the woman sitting next to me, that was the problem throughout the day and while she was there she had to request people who stood in front of her to move. But she left before the Black Eyed  Peas and the crowd became dominated by rude men with cameras.

A family with about three kids took the seats in front during the Cosplay contest. One of the younger boys was able to sit in a chair while the other children sat on the ground. That changed as the crowd filtered in for the Black Eyed Peas (4-5 p.m.) as the Cosplay competition ended.

On the stage right corner, LACC provided an ASL translator, but this only worked while there was crowd control. Theoretically, it seems that the seats were available to the disabled according to the information on the website, but this isn’t what happened on Saturday. I saw at least two people on mobility scooters in the narrow area in front of those seats, the same place where the press was supposed to be. You could only see the people on stage in profile and not if someone was standing in front of you. From the seats, of course, you can’t see if people, all men from what I saw, stand in front of you.

At that time, no Stan Lee LA Comic-Con volunteer tried to keep order. Men with cameras began standing in front of the chairs, making it impossible to see the large screen above the stage, the ASL interpreter and even your feet. The young boy who had been sitting next to Ian was forced to stand on his chair–not only to see, but also because the men backed up too close to his chair. Two staff members on the ASL interpreter team sat behind us and although they asked the men to move, the men did not move. Instead, I had to get up and ask. We were able to clear a small window unless people held up belts (for The Rock) or cameras.

The men crowded in front of the chairs to the stage. They also filled up the space between the chairs and the standing areas so that it made it difficult to pass. One woman on her way back from the restroom could hardly get through and her costume was being stepped on. Simply asking the men to move wasn’t enough. You (in this case me as the Dragon Lady) had to announce and demand it. The children who had been sitting on the floor had to get up. The children on chairs had to stand on them as did some of the adults. In case of emergency, the children would have been trampled. Still, no one on the Stan Lee LACC team came to clear the aisles or the front areas during the one hour presentation of the Black Eyed Peas or the subsequent half hour The Rock was on stage.

There were other fails. The space for mobility scooters was limited to the front of the seating in the rooms for panels. When one person came in, that person was forced to be in the aisle as opposed to removing a chair and putting it to the side. There seemed to be some confusion as to where the press could sit. We tried to sit in the second row, but were told to move while other members of the press were allowed to sit in the front.

Other conventions handle crowd control and ADA access much better. Some stagger the rows so there are several spaced for mobility vehicles near the aisles. Others provide a special section. San Diego Comic-Con and Disney’s D23 Expo have much better crowd control and would not have allowed men with cameras to block the views of people sitting down and the volunteers would have insured that aisles were clearly marked and kept clear of people. Standing areas are not pleasant for the short, the disabled or the unassertive. Let’s be honest. It is extremely rude to stand in front of people seated in chairs. These men with cameras knew they were doing something rude and wrong. As long as no one was there to correct them from the beginning, they were going to take advantage of the situation. Even when a female staff member (ASL team members) said something, they did not move. As a press person, I should not have to assert etiquette and it was easier because I am a petite woman and the situation is less likely to become confrontational than one between two men.

There needs to be better management of the main stage in a manner that will control this kind of manspreading–dominating the space without a thought to those who were there before–so that everyone can enjoy the main stage events and rude men with cameras will learn basic manners in public spaces.

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